Spiritual gifts are something God has chosen specifically for us so that we can help with the advancement of the church on earth by serving and using our special ability.
God has chosen people to do his work. He chose this course of action for reasons only he knows and understands. From a human perspective, we may wonder if this was the best decision. After all, the sky’s the limit concerning what God could have done. He could have chosen angels to speak to lost humanity. He certainly used them on many significant occasions throughout Scripture. Or God could have created a special category of messengers that would never fail him—a “sin-proof” instrument that would faithfully proclaim his Word. For that matter, God himself could have simply poked his face through the heavens and said, “Hello, world! I’m God, and you’re not!” But God has chosen men and women to do his work among humankind.
So, what are the spiritual gifts that God has given to his people? Here is a list:
- Being an apostle
- Speaking in tongues
- Teaching (sometimes known as shepherding)
ADMINISTRATION: The ability to help steer the church, or a ministry, toward the successful completion of God-given goals, with skills in planning, organization, and supervision.
APOSTLE: A person sent to new places with the gospel. You may have heard of missionaries going to different countries to help spread the Word; they could be described as apostles. An apostle can also provide leadership to other churches or ministries and offer advice on spiritual matters.
DISCERNMENT: The wisdom to recognize truth from untruth by correctly evaluating whether a particular behavior or teaching is from God or another, ungodly source.
EVANGELISM: The ability to successfully communicate the message of the gospel, especially to nonbelievers.
EXHORTATION: Competence in offering encouragement, comfort, and support to help someone be all that God wants them to be.
FAITH: People with this gift have such great confidence in the power and promises of God that they can stand strong in their belief, no matter what may try to shake them. They can also stand up for the church and for their faith in such a way as to defend and move it forward.
GIVING: Those who have this gift are particularly willing and able to share what resources they have with pleasure, and without the need to see them returned.
HEALING: A capability used by God to restore others, be that physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.
HELPS: Someone with this gift is able to support or assist members of the body of Christ so that they may be free to minister to others.
HOSPITALITY: A natural ability to make people—even strangers—feel welcome in one’s own home or church as a means to disciple or serve them.
KNOWLEDGE: This is the gift of someone who actively pursues knowledge of the Bible. This person may also enjoy analyzing biblical data.
LEADERSHIP: This aptitude marks a person who is able to stand before a church, to direct the body with care and attention, and to motivate them toward achieving the church’s goals.
MERCY: This is the defining trait of a person with great sensitivity for those who are suffering. It manifests itself in offering compassion and encouragement, and in a love for giving practical help to someone in need.
PROPHECY: The ability to speak the message of God to others. This sometimes involves foresight or visions of what is to come. This skill should be used only to offer encouragement or warning.
SERVING: A talent for identifying tasks needed for the body of Christ and using available resources to get the job done.
SPEAKING IN TONGUES: The supernatural ability to speak in another language (one that has not been learned).
TEACHING: The skill to teach from the Bible and communicate it effectively for the understanding and spiritual growth of others.
WISDOM: The gift of being able to sort through facts and data to discover what needs to be done for the church.
How do I know what my spiritual gift is?
If you have truly repented of your sin and asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, then you have at least one of those spiritual gifts.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.
1 Corinthians 12:1-7 (NKJV)
There are several ways to discover your spiritual gift(s). I recommend using a bit of each in this order:
1. Pray and ask God about your spiritual gifts
It sounds simple, but I am afraid many people skip this important step. Pray and ask God to show you what your spiritual gifts are.
2. Learn about Spiritual Gifts
Some churches offer spiritual gifts classes to help you discover yours. Ask a leader at your church if this is something they offer.
3. Take a “Spiritual Gifts” Inventory
There are lots of spiritual gift tests or inventories from which you may choose. Here is one, “Gifted 2 Serve” by BuildingChruch.com, It explains spiritual gifts.
Remember that these spiritual gift tests or inventories are only starting points. These tests may not be reliable, so take the results with a pinch of salt and be sure to keep pursuing the answer in prayer. You have to try different things and use your gifts to really know what they are.
4. Ask your Christian friends
You can ask your Christian friends which gifts they identify in you—very often they can see what you cannot and can observe which skills God has divinely assigned to you.
5. Try gifts on for size
How do you know you don’t have the gift of teaching, for example, unless you try it? The same could be said of each of the gifts. Spiritual gifts can surprise you because they are by nature God working through you.
For example, I’ve said before that I get very nervous when I am going to be in front of a group of my peers. I get nervous enough that people around me notice. Just before I speak, sing, or teach in public, I can’t sit still. I don’t like to talk to anyone because I am trying to give myself a pep-talk. I am visibly nervous.
But, a funny thing happens when I step out and begin to teach. The Holy Spirit takes over. I have prepared, prayed, and practiced, but when I actually speak, it’s like none of that matters. I have a “peace that passes understanding” (a feeling of peace and calmness that doesn’t make sense apart from God, Philippians 4:7). This only happens when I am teaching from the Bible.
As you try different spiritual gifts, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I enjoy this?
- What is difficult about this?
- Do I find this easier than I expected?
- Would I want to do this again?
I recommend trying something at least 2-3 times. You need to know for sure that the first time was not just a fluke.
HELPFUL HINT: Many churches are desperate for teachers and leaders because those called to serve have not stepped up to do so. If you don’t want to be locked into something you later find is not a good fit, talk with the director before you start. Ask to try it for about 3 weeks. You can also ask to observe someone else once or twice before you begin. If you and the director know what to expect going in, you will have less trouble saying no if it is not a good fit. Look for our blog post later this month about what to do if you are currently serving in a position that is not a good fit.
6. Look and listen for feedback
When you are gifted in something, people will notice and tell you. Not just one or two people either. If people keep telling you that you are good at something, it may be because it is one of your spiritual gifts.
It’s very easy to lose sight of Jesus while we’re in pursuit of our spiritual gifts. Sometimes they can become idols to us, so don’t allow this to take your eye off the only one who matters.
Additionally, once we determine which gift or gifts we have, we can become a little pigeonholed within them. Just because you have the gift of teaching doesn’t mean you should be a pastor! There are multiple uses for each gift, and your mentors, friends, and church leaders can help you decide how best to use those amazing God-given skills of yours.
And you may find that your spiritual gifts change over time. For example, you might find that as you grow in your faith, you receive the gift of faith. This just happily means that you’re becoming a stronger person in Jesus and are increasingly able to talk about your faith in a confident way. But as we age, gain wisdom, have new experiences, and journey further with the Lord, we all inherently change, and therefore, so may your spiritual gifts. Think of it as God giving you a software update!
What are we to do when we know what our spiritual gifts are!
Once you determine which gift or gifts you have, start using them to glorify God. By using your spiritual gifts to volunteer in a ministry or around your church, you are moving the Kingdom of God forward. And that applies no matter how small the job may seem.
Find a place to serve (sometimes volunteering is referred to as “serving”) that utilizes at least one of your gifts, and you’ll be amazed at how blessed your time will be. You may notice how easy you find it; God has given you a divine gift that you are inherently good at, and it just comes naturally! You may be surprised at how much you enjoy flexing that new gift muscle too.
The best place to start is at your church; ask a leader where volunteers are needed and see what might fit for your gifting. For example, if you have the gift of mercy, a hospital or prison ministry may be the right place for you. Or if you have the gift of hospitality, greeting new people or setting up for events may be the best fit. The gift of exhortation could make you an amazing addition to a prayer ministry.
Remember that your gifts can be used in many different ways, so don’t feel like you have to do something just because it looks, on the surface, as if it’s perfect for your gifts. If an assignment isn’t filling you with joy, find an opportunity that does. Joy is a great indicator of what your gift may be; if a task makes you happy, that’s a good sign you’ve found your skill and fit.
Now go do it – take ACTION!
Ok. We’ve looked at the steps to discovering your spiritual gifts. Knowing how is not enough. Now it is time for you to take action. Have fun and may God bless you as you discover your spiritual gifts!
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:22-25 (NKJV)